The role of plant-based foods and dietary fibre in school-aged children (5-12y) in Ireland

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McCarthy, Róisín
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University College Cork
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The consumption of plant-based foods has been associated with a variety of health benefits and a more sustainable environment. Plant-based foods including wholegrains cereals, vegetables and fruit provide important nutrients in the diet and are particularly promoted in food based dietary guidelines (FBDG) for their high dietary fibre (DF) content. The aim of this thesis was to examine the role of ‘cereals, grains & potatoes’ and ‘fruit & vegetables’, and DF in the diets of school-aged children (5-12y) in Ireland. A further aim was to investigate any changes in the intakes of these food groups and DF in school-aged children between 2003-04 and 2017-18. The analyses for this thesis were based on data from the National Children’s Food Survey II (NCFS II) which was a nationally representative cross-sectional study that collected food and beverage consumption data from 600 children aged 5-12 years in the Republic of Ireland between 2017 and 2018. Findings from the NCFS II were compared to the previous NCFS (2003-04). For each survey, dietary data were collected (at brand level) using weighed food diaries and nutrient intakes were estimated using UK and Irish food composition data. Mean daily intakes (MDI) of ‘cereals, grains & potatoes’ and ‘fruit & vegetables’ were estimated using SPSS© and their contribution to energy and nutrient intakes were estimated using the mean proportion method. Usual DF intakes were estimated using the validated National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Method. Dietary determinants of DF intake were investigated using tertile analysis to determine the food-groups and patterns of consumption which contributed to higher intakes of DF. The MDI of ‘cereals, grains & potatoes’ was 271g/d (approx. 3.7 servings/day) of which 1.7 servings was wholemeal/brown or from unprocessed potatoes. This is below the recommendation of 3-5 servings of wholemeal cereals & breads, potatoes, pasta and rice daily. The MDI of ‘fruit & vegetables’ was 221g/d (approx. 2.8 servings/day) which is below the World Health Organisation recommendation of ≥ 400g of fruit & vegetables per day and the Irish FBDG of 5-7 servings of fruit & vegetables per day (≤ 150ml/day from unsweetened fruit juice or smoothies). Despite these low intakes, ‘cereals, grains & potatoes’ made an important contribution to intake of energy, carbohydrate, DF, B vitamins, vitamin D, iron and calcium but also contributed to intakes of saturated fat, free sugar and sodium. ‘Fruit & vegetables’ made important contributions to intakes of DF, vitamin A, vitamin C, B-vitamins, potassium and magnesium but also contributed to intakes of total and free sugars. While overall intakes of ‘cereals, grains & potatoes’ and ‘fruit & vegetables’ were similar to the previous NCFS (2003-04), intakes of wholemeal breads, high fibre ready-to-eat breakfast cereals (RTEBC), porridge, pasta, whole fruit and smoothies were higher and intakes of low fibre RTEBC, potatoes and fruit juice were lower. The intake of DF in school-aged children in Ireland was 14.4 g/d which is below the adequate intake for normal bowel function in children but higher than that reported in the previous NCFS (2003-04) (12.4g/d). Determinants of a higher DF intake were wholemeal/brown breads, high fibre RTEBC, fruit and vegetables. The consumption patterns associated with a higher DF intake were a higher proportion of children consuming these foods (except for vegetables), consuming these foods more frequently and having a higher intake per eating occasion (except for fruit). Findings from this thesis may provide evidence for public health campaigns to promote the consumption of plant-based foods to increase compliance with the food based dietary guidelines and to improve DF intakes in this population group.
Dietary fibre , School-aged children in Ireland , Plant-based foods
McCarthy, R. S. 2020. The role of plant-based foods and dietary fibre in school-aged children (5-12y) in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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